Saturday, October 10, 2015
The theatrical release was accompanied by plenty of hype and critical acclaim so I'm surprised this hasn't been reviewed yet in Horrorthon '15. (JPX reviewed it when it was released in March but still..) Director David Robert Mitchell (who directed only one other movie - a coming of age drama titled The Myth of the American Sleepover) takes some familiar horror movie tropes and with a few innovations created something wholly new and special.
The sexually transmitted curse is not a new idea. In the horror movie world teenage fornication has been punishable by death for decades. Just ask Jason, Freddy or Michael Myers. However, the rules in this world are uniquely defined. Once infected you are pursued by a relentless killer who can take the form of anyone - ranging from stranger to parent to best friend. It always walks at the same slow pace so it's relatively easy to spot. Hence you can escape it for a while to plan your next move, but you can never elude it forever. If you "pass it off" sexually then you're off the hook temporarily, but if it kills your last partner before he or she passes to someones else then the supernatural force will resume focusing on killing you. Only those that have been infected can see the threat. The sense of inevitable impending doom drives the film.
The 70's/early 80's influenced synthesizer score and grim cinematography are perfectly effective. But the biggest strengths are the writing, casting and acting. Traditional adult figures of moral guidance are all but absent. The teenage cast share a strong chemistry and they're refreshingly comfortable with each other. In most horror movies the audience would have to suffer through a scene where Jay's friends dismiss her as delusional. But here, even if they do think she's crazy, they immediately recognize that she needs help and do everything in their power to assist her.
There are several hair raising scenes that I want to discuss but don't want to spoil so this review is over!